LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister David Cameron came under pressure in parliament on Wednesday over Britain’s stretched health service, with the opposition Labour party accusing him of presiding over a crisis of funding and resources.
Voters list the state of the National Health Service (NHS) as one of their top three concerns ahead of a May 7 national election and Labour, narrowly ahead of Cameron’s Conservatives in opinion polls, hopes to capitalize on discontent about a system struggling to cope with rising patient numbers.
Several hospitals in England have declared “major incidents” in recent days, complaining they are unable to handle the number of patients seeking care in accident and emergency departments, while British newspapers have carried stories about people being forced to wait several hours for treatment.
“What’s disgusting ... is a prime minister who said people could people put their trust in him on the NHS and he has betrayed that trust,” Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, told parliament, to loud cheering.
“He’s in denial about the crisis in the NHS. This is a crisis on his watch as a result of his decisions.”
Cameron rejected the criticism, saying there were 9,000 more doctors and 3,300 more nurses because his government had protected NHS funding.
“The NHS is facing this winter with more doctors, more nurses and more money than it has ever had in its history,” Cameron told lawmakers.
“Any health system in the world would struggle to cope with some of this pressure.”
Reporting by Andrew Osborn and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Stephen Addison